“Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them, but afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son’” (Matthew 21:36-37).
The actions of the landowner, to continually send slaves and, ultimately, his own son into an awaiting slaughterhouse, should not be extrapolated to an understanding of God as some naive, bumbling, ineffectual buffoon. Everything in this parable, from the murderous actions of the vine-growers, to the unfathomable carelessness of the landowner, is exaggerated to capture the patience of God in dealing with willful human rebellion. The parable far exceeds what is considered ordinary; that we might catch a glimpse of his extraordinary grace.
“There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey” (Matthew 21:33).
That the Landowner has gone on a journey is to entrust his people with an extraordinary opportunity. As free-will moral beings, with the resources afforded us by the graces of a loving Father, we are empowered to make the choices and decisions necessary to reflect a commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and our desire to be a unique and distinctive people. We are not hapless victims left to the circumstances of chance but, rather, through the rigors of faith and the fruit of self-discipline, we predicate the life we desire to pursue and live.
“Listen to another parable, ‘There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey’” (Matthew 21:33).
The motivation of God’s engagement with his creation is always rooted in love. This is captured in the six verbs utilized in this first line in the parable of the Landowner. God’s love has gone to great lengths to provide everything necessary to flourish as the people of God in an alien land. Comprehending this love is key to a pursuit of faith that is rewarding, enriching, fulfilling, and enduring. Without this understanding, only a religion of fear remains.
“Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully” (Deuteronomy 5:1).
This preface to the Ten Commandments serves notice of the expectation that a redeemed people be a moral people. Whether the positive “You shall” or the negative “You shall not,” each one prescribes the moral codes that undergird and provide understanding to the question “How shall we then live?”
“And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 2:24-25).
History bears testimony to the faithfulness of God’s provision. The God we worship, who created the world, delivered Israel, inspired the prophets, who was incarnationally birthed into this world and will come again has the authority to keep his promises and meet our needs.
“Like a trampled spring and polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked” (Proverbs 25:26).
Life is never a question of whether or not things are going to happen. The telling factor is how we respond to things. That is, while we have no control over external factors, we have an exclusive on our internal response. Faith is not an exemption card from hardship, but it is the defining quality of a person’s life that refuses to yield in the face of adversity and to lessen the integrity of the Christian witness to the world. While accepting the externals of life, we need not embrace the role of passive victims.
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
In the historical fiction The Virtues of War, an account is given of Alexander the Great being confronted at a river-crossing by a philosopher who refuses to step aside. Alexander’s officer shouts, “This man has conquered the world. What have you ever done?” The philosopher humbly replies, “I have conquered the need to conquer the world.” The most powerful person you will ever meet is the one not ruled by their emotions. Self-discipline is key to ruling over oneself.